Over the past two years of my running career, I’ve had five different brands of running shoes. Why? Well, I'll tell you...
(Classic shoe picture ;)
The summer after I graduated high school, I read the book Born to Run. Although I loved the book and it tells a great story, it gave some dangerous advice to a naive 17-year-old runner. Born to Run teaches that a) if you’re an active person, you don’t need to stretch before or after long runs and that rather, it’s better NOT to stretch and b) wearing worn out sneakers is better for running than new cushioned-filled shoes since less padding = more natural. Many people credit Born to Run for the barefoot and minimalist running fad, along with the heel injury epidemic that shortly followed the book’s release.
From the time I graduated high school in 2009, until I had my first serious running injury while training for the San Diego Marathon in 2014, I only bought one new pair of running shoes - Nike Pegasus to replace my previous pair. In early 2014, I was out for a run and after less than a mile, my ankle hurt so badly that I could barely walk. When it didn’t go away the next day, I scheduled an appointment with a chiropractor who had been recommended by my previous chiropractor in Pennsylvania. The chiropractor in Huntington Beach fixed my ankle after a few visits, and told me two things a) that I really needed to stretch more - scar tissue had built up in my ankle from not stretching, making it immobile and b) I needed to buy new running shoes - mine were noticeably worn down in several different areas.
So my search for the perfect running shoe began. This review is solely based on my opinion and is probably not meant for the sub-three hour marathoners out there. However, it may help those new to running or those looking to try a different shoe brand. You can also enjoy my shoe art - please ignore our worn out floor and remember, I'm not a pro photographer. ;)
Nike Pegasus 26: As I mentioned, by the time I stopped wearing my Nikes, they were as worn out as they could be. I had probably run 1,000+ miles in them over 2-3 years - kind of gross, I know.
(Nike Pegasus - the beasts of the east! Why do I still have them? That's a great question and I don't have an answer...)
I loved the Nikes in high school - they fit well, were comfortable, and provided tons of cushioning (obviously, if they could last several years without me getting shin splints), but they definitely weren’t the lightest shoe for long distance running. Maybe they were good for training in high school since I wore spikes for races anyway, but those extra ounces make a huge difference when you’re running marathons. I’ve moved on from Nikes and probably won’t go back to them for running shoes.
Mizuno Wave Inspire 10: The day after my first chiropractor appointment, I went to the running store that was a block away from my apartment and explained the situation. They gave me a few options - I didn’t like the Nikes, the Brooks were too cushioned, and I still thought minimalist shoes were the best option. My decision came down to Asics or Mizunos and I chose the Mizunos.
(Mizuno Wave Inspire 10)
At first, I loved them. Really, anything was better than the ancient Nikes that I’d been running in. But after 2-3 weeks in the Mizunos, I started having weird pains at the top of my foot/toes. It’d happen on every run. I tried loosening them as was suggested online, but still no luck. Then I found a forum talking about how Mizuno had changed their shoe structure a year or two earlier and other people were having the same pain that I was having. I went back to the running store and instead of exchanging the shoes, they sold me a pair of socks that was meant to provide more padding - the socks didn’t help.
The Mizunos became my favorite shoe for strength training and weightlifting (by weightlifting, I mean less than 40 pounds), but I've never worn them for long distance running since then.
Back to the shoe store…
Asics Gel-Electro33: I had a different salesperson when I went back to the running store for my third time. Again, I explained the situation and tried on a few different pairs of shoes. This time, I went with the Asics. They were minimalist Asics (not the most minimal but somewhere in-between) and they were light and comfortable. He warned me that they may wear out faster than non-minimalist shoes and would need to be replaced after 300 miles, rather than the average 500 miles. I ran the San Diego Marathon in them and loved them.
(After the San Diego Marathon in 2014)
They then became my triathlon shoes for my five races that summer and served their purpose. The salesman was correct, though - they definitely wore out faster than other shoes and when they started wearing out, my feet and legs felt it immediately. I would try Asics again, but I probably wouldn't go for the minimalist shoes next time.
Onto the next…
Brooks Pureflows 3 & 4: Pair one of the Brooks Pureflows (3rd edition) were a size 7.5 that I purchased when I moved back to the east coast and started training for the Washington, DC Marathon. They were a beautiful aqua blue color and fit like a dream when I first got them. They were well-cushioned (especially after wearing minimalist shoes for a while) and were still light to run in. I trained in them all winter and ran the DC Marathon in them in March. During the last 8 miles or so of the marathon, I had terrible lower back pain. While this may have been from driving several hours to DC the day before, I also think I had already worn out my shoes. I know a lot of faster and elite runners either buy a new pair of shoes for their races or have a lighter pair that they race in, but I didn’t know that at the time, nor can I afford to buy a second new pair of running shoes for every marathon.
(Brooks Pureflow 3s)
After the DC race, I HAD to buy a new pair of shoes. I purchased another set of Brooks Pureflows (4th edition) - this time a size 8. Something else I failed to acknowledge as a post high school runner - you should buy your running shoes a size up from your normal shoe size. The change in size helped dramatically and I again loved running in the Brooks. They lasted me from April until I did the Lehigh Valley Marathon in September. Then I could tell that I needed new shoes again. I’d definitely recommend Brooks to anyone looking to change brands - Brooks knows what they’re doing when it comes to running shoes. Although they've been my favorite so far, like I said, they wear out quickly and should probably be replaced after marathon training, even before the actual race.
(Brooks Pureflow 4s)
Enter New Balance…
New Balance 880v4: Although I had New Balance sneakers at one point during middle or high school cross country, I never thought to try them for marathon training. That is, until they came to me through Students Run Philly Style. I was hesitant at first, but I have to say - they’re a great shoe for running! There’s plenty of support, I haven’t had any issues or discomfort after running in them for over a month, and they come in funky colors. BONUS: New Balance discounts the shoes for Students Run Philly Style, so not only are they a great shoe brand, but they’re also philanthropic. I’d definitely recommend trying them out!
(New Balance 880v4)
Summary: My first picks are Brooks or New Balance, but Asics are a close third. Each brand also has a variety of shoes - extra-cushioned, normal, minimalist, zero-drop (I’ve never tried zero-drop, but I’ve heard good things about them). It’s all about preference, but if you’re a non-elite, average long distance runner like me who’s looking to PR, try these suggestions!
Do you have a favorite running shoe brand? What specific shoe and what makes it your favorite?
Have you ever had any bad shoe experiences?